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a designer's journey through process, discovery, & all the details that bring it to life!

by natalie mcqueen

by natalie mcqueen

a bit about me My whole life, I have been fascinated by detail. As a child, I often would be engulfed in books like “Where’s Waldo” or “I, Spy” because their pages were always rich with an array of colors, intricate characters, and so many miniature scenes and situations. The detail was limitless. When I was little, I was obsessed with adding that same kind of detail to my own creations. If drawing a person, for example, I believed that character remained sightless until each eyelash was in place, their mouths speechless unless red, and the hands could not grasp until filled with a flesh tone. To this day I am still obsessed, not only by a work’s aesthetic, but with the beauty behind the visual, as well. The approach, consideration, and precision that helps bring an entire piece together is just as important. Hand-in-hand these invisible traits, along with what you see, are what brings any project to life. Life is in the details. – Natalie McQueen

As designers, we are always presented with a plethora of problems to solve. Some designers go straight to final comps in mere minutes, while others are heaving into paper bags, unsure where to begin. In my process, I want to know everything and anything about what’s in front of me – the client and the problem they need solved. What I want to have (what I must have) is complete familiarity of the client, their mission and what vision they dream of bringing to life. Going past formal introductions and really learning about their methods, habits and defining their desires is essential. Ta da! Understanding is achieved!

The next step is the launching pad of my process – research and exploration! It’s time to transport myself into an anthropologic mindset; gathering facts, uncovering history, and deciphering context. Time is spent observing the client, the environment they have created, as well as the audience they’ll affect. One must embrace this new experience and unfamiliar territory. It will teach the necessary and appropriate knowledge that will help lead a designer to the best design solutions. So go! Immerse yourself in new worlds!

Once the foundations of understanding and research have been established, the next phase is that of conceptualization. At this point, it’s like entering a maze; one where there is a multitude of pathways. Some roads lead to unrelatable, obscure ideas, while the others in a more concise and smart direction. Potential design solutions begin to emerge more naturally, ruling-out which decisions will and will not lead to toward our goals. Ding! Clarity of ideas will help illuminate the path to the best solution.

Once the variety of ideas have been narrowed down to the best-fitted options, it is time for that first “breath of life.â€? This initial manifestation of the project represents all the research, hard work and conceptualization that has brought me to this point. Now the project is becoming reality, rather than existing in an idealic limbo. No, the decisions that have lead me here are not quite flawless, but the rough, imperfect model or comp helps reveal the bits and pieces that have been ignored or are muffling simplicity. VoilĂ ! A prototype makes it possible to see and interact with my ideas.

After examining the first prototype and learning which design aspects to eliminate or keep, the process becomes a task of refinement. This phase is a little back and forth; finessing the project until it is clear, precise and polished. This is a tedious phase; one that requires a good eye, precision, patience and upkeep. It is important when creating something to be aware of what to fine-tune and when to stop. Once the project has come to a point where its message is simple, clear and effective, refinement is complete! Magnifique!

This final stage is when all the kinks have been smoothed out, concepts are clear and ontarget, and is finally introduced to the client and the rest of the world. The project is now alive and breathing. This creation was something that formed from tangibly nothing, starting with a journey of curiousity, determination and discovery. It now has a history, an evolution, a function and a purpose. It can speak to so many and clearly states its purpose. All of its encompassing details have brought it to life.

dedications To my schools: My dearest thanks to every last person I met while I was in school, both at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, Colorado. To my Professors: I was honored to be a student under your instruction and cannot express my gratitude enough. Thank you for teaching me all your tricks, tips and insights. I’ll carry them with me always. To my RMCAD friends: First off, thank you for being exactly who you are. Thank you for all the delirious laughter, serenades, gallons of coffee, late nights and endless encouragement you’ve given me while at RMCAD. I love you all dearly. To my family: Putting myself through college has been a long, strenuous, and at times, very difficult journey. I probably would have given up a long time ago, but near and far, you all helped me get through. Thank you for so much love and support! I love you!

Life Is In the Details  

My 'You Book,' designed for my 2013 Graduation Exhibition. I explain my own personal approach to design.

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